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Cultural exchange

Australian midwifery students helping to save lives in East Timor.

Third year Flinders University students Amy Buckerfiled and Laura Grigg are playing a critical role in Timor Leste, helping to reduce the number of women and babies dying in a country renowned for having an alarmingly high rate of maternal and child mortality.

Having completed a two-week clinical placement at a primary health clinic, the two Flinders University midwifery students provided much needed support, education and community based health services to the region.

Flinders University Associate Professor, Dr Pauline Glover has been working to facilitate clinical placements of midwifery students in Timor Leste for the past 18 months.

“The mortality rate among pregnant women is 380 deaths per every 100,000 pregnancies,” Glover says.

“More shocking is the number of newborn infant deaths, with 65 children out of every 1000 dying. These figures are horrifying and I believe that by sharing our knowledge with developing countries like Timor Leste, we can reduce these figures and genuinely help the community.

“Our relationship with the clinic is so important for two reasons; it provides an opportunity for our third year students to teach and learn in a developing country and also provides a cross-cultural exchange of ideas between our students and local midwives.”

Family planning adviser, Kristen Graham works closely with the Flinders University students in East Timor focusing on birthing, postnatal and newborn care, family planning and immunisation services.

“When you are looking at figures where only 10 per cent of women giving birth see the inside of a health facility you really start understanding why this program and relationship is so important,” Graham says.

“Having these students sharing their knowledge and assist in training and development is pivotal to significantly reducing these unnecessary deaths.”

The students are also asked to prepare and present a training session for the local nurses and midwives, actively involving the local women in training methods, visual presentations and practical demonstrations.

“The students are always really positive about their experiences in East Timor,” Glover says.

“For some, it really has opened their eyes to the opportunities that exist and they’ll probably go on to work in cross cultural midwifery in the future. That is incredibly satisfying.”

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